CHARLEVOIX — Char-Em Intermediate School District’s Career and Technical Education Department has been recognized with a state award for its efforts to develop an extensive construction trades continuum that brings students from the classroom to the job site equipped with knowledge, skills and even the tools of the trade.
The “Construction Trades Continuum Initiative” received a 2022 Career and Technical Education College and Career Readiness Excellence in Practice Award from the Michigan Office of Career and Technical Education, announced recently by state Career and Technical Education director Brian Pyles.
“You should be very proud of this significant achievement,” said Pyles. “I commend you for your valuable contribution and your vision, expertise and teamwork in creating and sustaining such an exemplary practice in career education.”
Char-Em’s career tech staff have developed a continuum of opportunities for students to be exposed to various careers, such as the construction trades, at a young age, through camps, classes, activities and site visits.
Specifically in the construction trades, students can try their hand at fun, related courses during Career Academy for Kids summer camp for grades 2-8. A welding academy for grades 8-11 teaches students this in-demand skill that can be utilized in construction trades careers.
In recent years, two summer construction trades camps have been launched for students in grades 6-12 and post-graduates up to 20 years of age that include shed and building construction, from floor to roof and everything in between.
In high school, students can enroll in a construction trades course at Boyne City, Central Lake, Charlevoix, Pellston and Petoskey high schools — programs which are open to any student in any district.
Jim Rummer, director of Career and Technical Education for Char-Em, noted the camps and programs develop students’ knowledge and skills and can also earn them specific industry-recognized credentials, articulated credit with post-secondary institutions, and/or employment directly after high school.
“Our Career and Technical Education Department’s goal is to assist students of all ages and abilities, in collaboration with local schools, parents, and community members, to realize their potential and passion. We do that through awareness, exploration and preparation and by providing career and college readiness experiences and opportunities that will guide them in gaining skills to become productive members of society,” Rummer said. “Our construction trades continuum is just one example of our team working to reach students at younger ages in order to allow them to make more informed decisions regarding their future.”
Additional opportunities each year expose students to the construction industry and other careers, such as MiCareerQuest, National Manufacturing Day, business and college tours, internship connections, mock interviews, and many more, Rummer said.
The department’s continued recognitions for its successful programming have resulted in a number of community partners stepping forward to offer financial support to students as well, Rummer added.
For example, a local family foundation provides $500 gift cards to students pursuing the skilled trades as a career for new work boots, apparel and tools.
In 2021, the department began a recognition program for area businesses that support career and technical education through Char-Em ISD; that list now includes over 200 businesses.
“These connections help fill jobs,” Rummer said. “For instance, there is a need in our region for the next generation of construction trades workers to fill the gaps created by the aging population currently exiting the trade. Construction companies continue to approach us looking for skilled trade workers, and with this construction pipeline we can get students interested at an earlier age and encourage them to enroll in CTE programs and ultimately connect them to the local workforce.”
Rummer pointed to the efforts of Char-Em Intermediate School District’s Career and Technical Education Department staff in putting together the breadth of creative programs that resulted in the recognition for the team, including Tory Thrush, career and college readiness consultant; Hannah Sanderson, CTE consultant; Kelly Miller, K-12 career/college readiness specialist; career preparation specialists Liz Nachazel, Patty Hellebuyck, Annie Hansen, and Margaret Holes; and Brandon Beltz, STEM consultant.
He also gave thanks to Michigan Works!, Pellston Public Schools and the Public Schools of Petoskey for partnering with the ISD and others to offer the summer construction camps.
Jeff Crouse, Char-Em ISD superintendent, said the recent award is another feather in the CTE cap of state-level recognitions.
“I am proud that our career tech programs continued to be recognized at a state level,” Crouse said. “Our staff works extremely hard to reach all kids and connect them with career and college readiness activities and programs.
“They continue to make a difference in the lives of our students in Char-Em ISD.”